Bend isn’t your typical North American ski-town. It’s off the beaten path and there is no major expressway or airport. Is it worth the trek? For sure!
So what makes this ski-town so special?
First vote goes to the weather. Bend proper only gets 25 inches of snow per year, because it sits on a plateau at around 3,000 feet. The weather stays pretty warm in town, even in the middle of winter. On the other hand, Mt. Bachelor gets dumped on! The mountain receives upwards of 360 inches of the glorious white stuff each year. It’s more typical of ‘powder’ found in Colorado than its close brethren in the Pacific Northwest, which is categorized as “Cascade Concrete.” Not only is the snow amazing, but Mt. Bachelor boasts one of the longest ski seasons with operations running through Memorial Day.
Bend is located in the high dessert. With Mt. Bachelor to the West, blocking almost all the storms, the weather can be sunny down in town while it is nuking on the mountain. In fact, the mountains are 19 miles away from town, so you probably won’t notice them in the distance. What does this mean to you? It means you can ski fresh powder in the morning then mountain bike, kayak or golf in the afternoon, almost year round. A true outdoor paradise!
Bend Ale Trail
Did we also mention the beer? These are all great reasons to visit, but Bend is known for more than just skiing/snowboarding and the outdoors. The second vote goes to its deserved status of Beervana. A city of only 82,000 people, Bend is home to fourteen world class award-winning breweries, almost all within biking or walking distance from town center. With credentials like that, it makes sense that Bend created what is known today as the official Bend Ale Trail. Holding claim to the largest ale trail in the West, Bend makes it easy and fun to track yourself in their Ale Trail app as you cruise through town, tasting and enjoying all it has to offer. Even if you’re not a beer connoisseur, there is something for everyone. Make sure you check out some of the more exotic experimental beers crafted…you might not even recognize them as beer.
Here’s a sampling from some of our favorites:
Boneyard Brewery – Brews to-go
If you are looking for something a little ‘off the wall’ and more daring, then Boneyard is a good fit. Located in a quiet residential area, the outside looks more like a Mom and Pop garage than an actual brewery…but don’t be fooled. This place packs a punch, in its flavors that is. The Boneyard name plays from the fact that all the equipment they use was acquired over time from thirteen different breweries across the country. Look around and see what you can spot… Anyone visiting from the Midwest might notice a few Three Floyds stickers on some of the gear. Along with their staple brews on draft, be on the lookout for their unique flavors they rotate on their handles. One of these is called Fuego Rojo and rightly named, it will knock your socks off. It’s a fiery hot red ale made out of what seemed like liquid cayenne pepper! If you love spicy food and like to sweat, you won’t want to miss this one.
Bend Brewing Company – Great comfort food and brews
This is the perfect spot to go if you’re looking for fantastic food, award winning brews, and awesome views. A personal favorite, the beers are not overbearing or extreme, but rather delicious and abundant with around 10 beers on tap. Great views of the Deschutes River, TVs in the bar area, and the option of indoor or outdoor relaxing, you’ll be well entertained as you sip on a pint. A couple of our favorites are their Hefeweizen and Porter. The High Dessert Hefeweizen is a tangy yet spicy hefeweizen with slight hints of sweetness. Very light and definitely sessionable, especially on a warm day overlooking the river. On the opposite spectrum, The Pinnacle Porter leads with a dark berry aroma that invites you to take a sip. The Pinnacle is a lighter porter with notes of dark cherries and ends with a little tanginess.
Rat Hole Brewery – Perfect for Beer Aficionados
The name “Rat Hole” paints a mental picture of a run-down dive bar filled with seedy characters, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Instead, this brewery is in a modern building filled with a brand new feel and a great mix of patrons. The name was born from its beginnings. Started in an old barn that looked more like a rathole than a brewery, the name stuck and “Rat Hole Brewing” began. From humble beginnings, you will come to understand the owner’s passion about beer and wanting to push the limits on what brewing is all about. If you are a person searching for fmemorable beers that you may never have again, this is the place for you. Since it is a nanobrewery, the taps are constantly changing meaning that a beer you have today may not be there tomorrow. This also means you have to go there to enjoy it since they only produce enough brew to keep the taps open at the brewery and that’s about it. They bottle a few of their beers but no growlers to take…so you must go there and savor the flavors in the moment. One of the most memorable beers they had available was their Vanilla Porter. Normally, a Vanilla Porter has slight notes to it but Rat Holes’ smacks you in the face with its vanilla aroma and strong flavors in the beer. This place is a definite must see if you love beer and want to try something a little different.
Deschutes Brewery – Old Faithful
Last but never least, the whole beer craze in Bend started because of this brewery. There are two Deschutes locations to check out. First, the brewery itself has an amazing tasting room filled with so many choices plus a few you’ve never seen. This is the perfect place for someone who wants to try their wide palette of flavors and then hone in on which ones are their favorites. Deschutes even has brewery tours if you like the science and process behind the ‘art of the brew’. Finally, if your looking to hang out and chill, the brewpub in the center of Bend will be your best bet. Don’t worry, they’ll actually have a few beers you’ve never seen before (not even at the tasting room) or they’ll have a twist on one of the old favorites. A great example of this is their famous Red Chair beer. The brewpub may put it on Nitro, which is WAY different than it normally is served. The menu is also no slouch. You might want a snack with your beer or to eat dinner and either choice is a good one.
With so many breweries to experience along the famous Bend Ale Trail, this is only a sampling but don’t worry, we’ll go deeper on some of the other ones in our future articles.
Check out our second part where we talk about how to ride/ski Mt Bachelor in the spring! Found Here! And if you want ski or ride in summer check out our other article here